“I think there’s always a battle going on somewhere in the field,” says Australian pilot Matt Hall, who won his second consecutive Red Bull Air Race stop of the season on 4 September at Germany’s EuroSpeedway Lausitz.
With only two races left in 2016, that’s never been more true. After overall leader Matthias Dolderer earned another bundle of points with his second-place finish in home skies at the EuroSpeedway, the fight is no longer between the German and a group of 13 pilots united in their desire to keep him from running away with the title. Now it’s apparent who does still have a chance to upset Dolderer and who doesn’t; and those who don’t are engaging in skirmishes of their own.
“My battle is with Matthias, and I’m chasing him,” says Hall, who was second overall in 2015 and now is trying to overcome a 16.5-point deficit to the German in a sport where each race win is worth 15 points. “But in the hangars to the other side of me there are about five guys within about five points of each other, I think, so there’ll be a huge amount of pressure there because they’re looking at either side, going, ‘I could slip further down the ranks or I could leap up a number of positions.’”
In the fourth through eighth positions on the leaderboard, Kirby Chambliss(USA), Nicolas Ivanoff (France), Martin Šonka (Czech Republic), Nigel Lamb(Great Britain) and Yoshihide Muroya (Japan) are indeed within five points of each other – the spread is only 4.75 points, to be exact. While it’s now mathematically impossible for any of them to take the championship this year, the other two steps of the overall podium are still tantalizingly within reach; so in the final pair of stops they’ll be looking to clamber over each other, as well as Hall and the pilot currently in third place, Austria’s Hannes Arch.
And when it comes to Arch, the Austrian is the only pilot besides Hall who could steal the title away from Dolderer. Arch won the 2008 World Championship and has stood on the overall podium every season since, proving he can go the distance. And there’s no question that he’s eying Hall less than 8 points ahead of him as well. “The season is not over yet,” Arch emphasizes.
Every one of the 14 Red Bull Air Race pilots is as competitive as he is skilled, so the Red Bull Air Race debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA on 1-2 October will kick off intense rivalries throughout the exclusive ranks.
“Right down at the end of the field you’ve got a couple of rookies who are going, ‘I don’t want to be the guy at the back end here, I’ve got to get every point I can,’ so all the way through the paddock, there are these little battles going on,” Hall notes. “My battle is for the world championship. But there are battles all the way through the field.”
The sparks will fly right down to the final at another American motorsport venue, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, on 15-16 October.